Womens Health

Teen Moms: The Risk of Giving Birth to a Low-Weight Baby

By Frederick R. Jelovsek, MD

Teen girls who get pregnant are at risk for having low birth weight babies. If your teen were pregnant, how could you tell if she was at risk for having a baby that might be premature or weight impaired and have to stay in the hospital for a while? AB Berensen et al, Inadequate weight gain among pregnant adolescents: Risk factors and relationship to infant birth weight. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1997 Jun 176:1220-7, did a study to look at these factors.

Why A Low Weight Baby

Poor weight gain of less than 20 pounds during pregnancy was the most important factor in predicting having a low birth weight baby. In turn, the factors that were associated with poor weight gains were:

  • physical abuse during pregnancy (this can come from the teens partner or other relatives)
  • sexually transmitted diseases (mostly chlamydia, gonorrhea)
  • unplanned pregnancy (yes some of them are actually planned)

Interestingly, recent use of alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs were not associated with poor weight gain. On the positive side, even if the teen has some of these risk factors, gaining 20 pounds or more must help prevent low-birth-weight because only 1% of teens with an adequate weight gain had babies below 5 1/2 pounds.

Teen moms, just like any other moms, should be encouraged to eat a healthy diet while pregnant and to be sure to eat enough calories to help substain their pregnancy and create a healthy baby.  Teen moms should also be given vitamin supplements and folic acid during their pregnancy to help ensure their baby is receiving adequate nutrition and to help prevent any possible birth defects caused by an inadequate diet.  


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